Open Letter from Mexican Unionists on FTAA
"We call on North American workers and their trade union
federation, the AFL-CIO, to redouble their efforts and to exert pressure
on their Congressional Representatives and Senators to vote against Fast
Mexico City, July 5, 2002
To the Unions and Workers of the United States and the U.S. Population in
To the Representatives and Senators of the U.S. Congress,
Accept these warm greetings from the workers and organizations of Mexico
that have convened in the city of Mérida, Yucatán, the 29th of June 2002
for the Eighth National Convention Against the FTAA and For Labor Rights
It has been eight years since the implementation of NAFTA, a free trade
deal signed between the governments of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.
In the U.S., NAFTA in practice coincides with the "speculative
bubble" from the mid-nineties that ended in a precipitous stock
NAFTA creates all the measures that the large corporations are trying to
impose in their own cities and towns and in all the cities and towns of
the planet: overexploit workers, that is to say, reduce salaries, control
natural resources (reduction in the costs of raw materials), eliminate
laws, norms, and regulations ("freedom of movement of capital"),
especially within labor, the environment and finances. All of these put
the unity of our nations in danger.
In Mexico, an undetermined but important number of businesses have been
seriously affected by not being able to confront the growing foreign
competition in both local and international markets.
The purchasing power of Mexicans, a basic element of the internal market,
fell 25% between the great crisis of 1994 and the new crisis that began in
2000. In order to promote an export policy, that is to say, the policy of
corporations which run sweatshops, it is they who sell abroad almost half
of the exports classified as made in Mexico.
Since NAFTA has been in force, private sector workers' pensions have been
privatized (a creation of Afores). Now, the Afores have the right to
speculate with the papers of private businesses and, on the other side,
the government is preparing the dismantling of the Institute of Social
Services for State Workers (ISSSTE). This policy, as has occurred with the
pensions of U.S. unions that were invested in Enron and Global Crossing
stocks, only serves to increase the penalties for the workers and the
The farming sector is among those that has suffered the consequences of
NAFTA the most. Traditional crops that form the diet of the Mexican people
are being imported in great quantities. Around 25 million people live in
the countryside and among them is the greater part of the 30 million
Mexicans that live in "extreme poverty." The opening of the
market, on the other hand, has in no way benefited small and medium sized
farmers in North America.
Today the multinational agro-industrials in the United States dominate the
Mexican market for seeds and commercial agricultural products. Local
production tends to be limed to certain "exportable" products.
Finally, the immigration of Mexican workers to the United States and the
installation of maquiladoras in Mexico that pay wages that are 10 times
lower than in the United States has increased with NAFTA, which has
exerted an enormous pressure on the salaries and collective bargaining
contracts of North American workers. The policy of North American
companies of imposing lower wages, was simultaneously expressed in the
ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court justices which denied the right of free
unionization to immigrant workers of Mexican origin.
This situation will worsen with the introduction of a Free Trade Area of
the Americas (FTAA).
Now faced with the struggle of the Mexican workers in the maquiladoras to
form independent unions and faced with a so-called "strong
peso," the maquiladora companies, especially in textile fabrication,
are migrating towards other countries with even lower wages. In Mexico the
cost of the labor force in the maquiladoras is $2.38 dollars per hour, in
the Central American countries it is almost $1.60, in Sri Lanka, $.58
cents, in Malysia, $.99, and in China $.43. More than 350 maquiladoras
previously installed in Mexico have moved to China.
In the framework of crisis and for the first time since its creation in
the 60s, the maquiladora industry has stopped growing; part of the process
in which North American industry has reduced production. In some cases,
such as in textile fabrication, which is one of the most important,
industry has started to transfer to other countries with lower salaries.
One-hundred thousand jobs were lost in the maquiladoras between May of
2000 and October of 2001.
The maquiladoras have pressured for an even further reduction in the wages
in Mexico. In order to deal with the complaints of the multinationals, the
Mexican government is trying to offer a "docile and cheap labor
force" in the south and southeast of the country, with the so called
"Plan" Puebla Panama (the first step toward FTAA in our
country). In addition, it raises the problem of expulsion of the
indigenous from their communities. The government is explicitly trying to
compete with the low wages in China, that is to say, trying to lower wage
costs in Mexico even more, which will bring as a consequence an increase
in immigration towards the United States and therefore a greater pressure
on the living conditions and wages of North American workers.
But doesn't the same occur in the United States, where the automobile
manufacturers transfer their operations to the southern part of the
country where they don't want to see "a union 100 miles from the
Is it not an essential element of democracy to recognize the right of
workers to organize independently to defend their rights? Don't they
intend to deny this right in the maquiladoras in Mexico and the plants in
the south of the United States with NAFTA and the FTAA?
It is a process to reduce the living conditions of U.S. workers, employing
a reserve labor force that is mainly Mexican.
In Mexico they are trying to modify the labor law to introduce a work day
longer than eight hours without overtime pay and to drastically limit the
action of unions and the rights to collective bargaining contracts, in
opposition to what is stipulated in the conventions of the International
Labor Organization (ILO).
For all of the above reasons, we call on North American workers and their
central trade union, the AFL-CIO, to redouble their efforts and to exert
pressure on their congressional representatives and senators to vote
We believe that our peoples need to relate to one and other in a
democratic way, in which the right to independent organization of the
workers is respected and the rights contained in the conventions of the
ILO are accepted.
In our country we have been promoting a signature campaign to endorse a
letter directed to President Vicente Fox. It asks him to "withdraw
from the FTAA negotiations because he has no mandate to participate in
them." In Brazil the people and the workers have demonstrated against
this agreement. In Argentina, Peru and Paraguay, in varying degrees, the
population has demonstrated its opposition to the policies of
privatization, deregulation and "free trade."
In our Eighth National Convention Against the FTAA And For Labor Rights
For All, we decided to add our names to the proposal to hold a Continental
Conference Against FTAA and Privatizations -- a proposal that had been
decided by the delegates from the American continent who attended the
International Conference Against Deregulation and For Labor Rights For
All, held in Berlin, Germany, this past February.
Let us decide together to hold the Continental Conference Against the FTAA
in 2003! This would be a proposal that does not try to enter into
contradiction or competition with other proposals, but rather seeks to
contribute to strengthening the bonds of unity among workers and their
Organizing Committee of the Eighth National
Convention in Merida, Yucatan
(June 29, 2002)
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